2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


ZEN, E-an, Department of Geology, Univ of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, BARTON, Paul B., U. S. Geol Survey, Reston, VA 20192, REITAN, Paul H., Department of Geology, SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, KIEFFER, Susan W., Geology, Univ of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL 61901, Canada and PALMER, Allison R., Institute for Cambrian Studies, 445 N. Cedarbrook Road, Boulder, CO 80304, AR_PAL@msn.com

Planet Earth provides habitats that make possible biodiversity, as well as the materials indispensable for all life forms. These life forms include humans in modern societies. The principal materials are water, soil, minerals, and sources of energy that are not directly solar radiation. Society must realize that even many "renewable" materials are currently either being used beyond renewal rates, or being badly contaminated, so that they are effectively nonrenewable (e.g. groundwater, soil).

Growth in population and in consumer demands aggravates the prospects for a sustainable global future. We need massive and timely public and political education to address our social priorities, especially the limits of human demands for earth resources; we must reexamine our premise that "growth" is intrinsically good.

To reduce the future shock of shortfalls of essential earth materials, we need systems of global and quantitative monitoring networks that are effectively interlinked so that supply problems can be identified in time to develop substitutes. Such forecasts should include reliable estimates of uncertainties, and feature realistic and credible (even if not precise) global assessments of material demand, flow, and availability.

Sustainable exploitation and allocation of earth resources requires that healthy existence of the non-human components of earth's ecosystems be assured. The current situation, where they receive mostly human rejects and leftovers, is not sustainable.